This is the marquee final the tennis world wanted to see. It’s Rafa vs Novak, two heavyweights of the game who are chasing history. They’ve played so many big matches throughout the years including eight Grand Slam finals. That record stands at 4-4. Nadal skipped the US Open due to virus concerns, Novak was famously defaulted from it, now they both have a chance to close in on Federer’s 20 Slams. Novak is on 17; Rafa is at 19, whoever wins tonight are one step closer to tennis immortality.
Why Novak will win
The conditions suit Djokovic, the cool Paris air this time of year matched with the tournament changing the brand of ball used has blunted the heavy topspin of Rafa, which makes this more of a hard court match. I’d also suggest the drop shot will come into play here, Novak has used it as a weapon, he’ll try more of it if Nadal starts grinding out the rallies. If Novak can get the mix right in the rallies and keeps his head he’ll win.
Why Rafa will win
The great clay man is a staggering 12-0 in French Open finals and 99-2 in Paris overall. It’s a mind blowing level of domination; if he can call any court around the world as his backyard then it’s this one. Rafa is so good at staying in the moment, never relying on wins from the past but he’ll try to force Novak into remembering all the defeats he’s inflicted on the Serb in Paris, six out of seven to be exact. The longer this match goes Rafa’s chances go up, if he hangs around long enough he’ll win.
Rafa hasn’t lost a set, although he’s had a soft draw. This final will be a major step up in class for him. Depending on which Novak shows up if he wins the first set I could see Djokovic winning this easily. He completely dominated Rafa earlier this year in Sydney at the ATP Cup, by jerking the Spaniard around in the rallies and it could happen here, even on clay.
Novak went five sets in his semi with Tsitsipas, which either steals him for this match or as this final drags on plays a factor in terms of fatigue. The clay overall head to head is 17-7 in favor of Rafa but one point it was 8-0, so as the years ticked over Novak chipped away on the clay.
Djokovic should be more battle ready for this match; he’s played more matches these past months and been in recent pressure situations. He’ll be desperate to get the New York debacle behind him; the only way to do that is by winning his 18thSlam. Novak wins this in 4 sets.